Warts And All, Contest Entries & Fragmentary Fiction
Writing & Writing About Writing
These are my last contest entries for the foreseeable future.
1) I have a tendency to get interested in too many things. One tweet is small, but too many niggling drains on one’s concentration add up to distraction. I am trying to get better at maintaining focus on one or two projects.
2) I’m not at the point were I am busting out in plots. My #GWSE entries were clever epigrams rather than mini stories. Ditto NYC Midnight. Pleasant bits of business that failed to join up into a narrative arc. Maybe in the future, when I get better with plotting and need places to practice.
Only the top 16% (5/30) of the NYC Midnight entries moved on to the second round. Either I did not read the rules carefully enough, or I failed to do the math. Either way, halfway through the writing period, I realized that what I was typing had no hope of resolving into an entry capable of making the cut.
So I adjusted my sights, threw down the rest of the words, and pranced off to the ASHAA Banquet [Changing Of The Guard]. I had thoughts of revising after, but you can imagine how that went. As I said last time [January], I’m pleased that I finished it. There are parts that I quite liked. OTOH, I did not enjoy busting my butt for a deadline that I was not getting paid for.
Ignore any typos. This is the entry as sent. There was feedback from the judge(s). I have not read it. Much like dressage test sheets, I do not need to be told what my errors were. I was there. I’m well aware of the mistakes I made.
Stay safe. Stay sane.
I Dare You
I protest. Flug is totes a legit Scrabble word. It’s right there in the dictionary … the Dictionary of American Regional English. #GWstorieseverywhere #idareyou @willwrite4feed
Dictionary of American Regional English DARE
[The State You’re In, February Contest Entries]
NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Character: A substitute teacher
Word Count: 2500 (my entry 2278)
[Let It Go, January Contest Entries]
[FYI, Another Writing Contest]
I pulled a pair of socks from the bottom of the box. I looked around the rest of the boxes were empty. That should be it for the closet. Time for lunch.
“Minion, order a pizza.”
That’s right, I turned off the voice recognition. I went over to my wall screen. Opened the dinner folder. Tapped the pizza icon. Electrons bounced back and a forth. My programmed list of choices was consulted. A text was sent. Money for food and tip disappeared from my account and reappeared in the account of the pizza parlour. As part of my lease, I’d logged endless screen full of everything from where to order pizza to my favorite day to do laundry. ‘When it’s dirty’ was an option, so someone with sense had programmed at least part of the system.
A notice popped up, a medium sausage and green pepper pizza would be here in 15 minutes.
I switched to the resident’s screen. Three people were home. Two had red circles around their icons. Do not disturb. The icon on the roof patio had a green circle, indicating a willingness to be sociable. Time to meet one of my neighbors.
When the pizza arrived, I poured a glass of water and made sure my own icon was set to social mode.
When I arrived at the roof garden, I saw a tall, attractive, blond man sitting at the table near the parapet. Ooooh, things where looking up.
He looked at straight me as I came through the door. The phone lying on the table in front of him had undoubtedly beeped at him. He stood,
I put down the pizza box and held out my own hand.
“Or not”, he replied.
I smiled and sat. Arranged my lunch. In front of John was a half-finished bottle of beer. No food.
He said, “So, what do you think of our experiment in hyperconnected living?”
I waved my hand at my pizza. “Ordering food is easy, but I could have done that on my phone. Not sure about the neighbors. They seem to be into bad Shakespeare puns.”
“Are there good Shakespeare puns?”
“Many,” I answered, “but it takes great will power not to use them in casual conversation.”
He laughed. He had a nice smile.
I laughed in return. “Not sure how I feel yet. I can tell you that my parent hate everything about the APPartment. I grew up kind of off the grid.”
“Religious conservatives?” He asked.
“No, retro hippies. Solar power. Natural fibers. Homegrown food. Deep suspicion of the man. The works. My mother thinks the screens are being used to spy on us.”
“Did you move here to piss them off?”
“Not really. I’m don’t I disagree with their assumptions. I disagree with their conclusions. Retreat is not the answer. Not on a global scale. You have to get close to know your enemy.”
Jogn looked thoughtful, or possible stunned. I tried to lighten the mood.
“Big Brother is here. Has been for a while. Might as well get the benefits.” I smiled.
“That’s kind of bleak,” he said. Not light enough I guess.
“Sometimes I look at the screens on the walls of every room and think of the screens in *1984*.”
“That’s your mother talking.”
“Just because she’s paranoid, doesn’t mean she’s wrong.”
He tipped the bottle in his hand to me by way of acknowledgement. I tried not to stare. He caught me anyway.
“Yeah, I don’t usually day drink. Today is an exception.”
He stared into his beer bottle. “Tonight I have to teach a cooking class. I am no not suited to do this.”
“You can’t cook?”
“No I can. I’m a brilliant cook. Cooking school. Big name restaurants. Name it and I can cook it.”
“Then what’s the problem?” I asked. “Not like people?”
“No, I like teaching people about food, as long as they are interested in learning.” He sighed. “I got burned out. It all seemed so pointless. People are starving and I am stressing that the filet will not be ready at the exact moment that the tuna is. Really, people, this is important?”
“What about a soup kitchen or a food charity? Start up Food Without Borders.”
“I tried a few those. They about feeding people, not about the fine points of producing exquisite food. Soup kitchens are more about mass production and social work. Food charities are all about logistics and fund-raising and politics and other things I’m not good at. I’m a chef. I cook. But I don’t want to.”
“Maybe if I had more variety or the people cared what they ate. You want to be seen, go somewhere else. Come to my restaurant for the food. Or that’s how I woudl do it if I could. But I can’t so I don’t. Hence the day beer.”
“Bummer. So how did you get roped into this class?”
“A buddy called. You know those people who you will drop anything to help? ”
“He’s on my short list. He was there for me in bad times. He asks. I do.”
“Is he a chef also?”
“No. Can’t boil water. That’s the problem. He’s big on lifelong learning. He runs the evening unicersity classes. His chef bailed. He needs someone tonight. I’m a big enough name, or at least I can drop big names, that I will be a decent sub for the night. I’ll make a few dishes. Tell a few stories. Easy Peasey. Gaaaa..”
“Does he know what he’s asking? That you don’t want to cook anymore?”
“He knows what he’s asking. He also thinks I should get back into cooking. So it’s a favor and with some not so subtle arm-twisting.”
“You are going to do it?”
“So all of this noise is ….”
“Is me venting and getting myself psyched up. It’ll be fine, really. It’s a soft audience.”
“What’s the worst audience you’ve cooked for?”
“Really. I am surprised. I would have thought big names or fancy functions.”
“Most people, by the time they get rich and famous, they’ve sat through a lot of bad meals. You feed them something light and even passingly acceptable and they are glad to see it. I never worried about reviewers. Those are such a crap shoot. Is the reviewer having a good day? Does the waiter looking like their ex-boyfriend? Wedding dinners? Easy. By the time the couple gets to the food, they are so happy they don’t even taste the food.”
“Happy to be married?”
“No, happy that the wedding circus is almost over.”
“But kids. Oof. Of course, it’s the parents of the kids. The kids are great. Give them a hot dog cannon that shoots peas and you are their new favorite person.”
“You did that?”
“Well, our kitchen did. The cleaning staff hated us. Peas everywhere. We had to promise never to put it on the menu.”
“I’ve been going on for way too long. What brings you to our hyperconnected slice of heaven, from youthful rebellion?
“I’m a dancer. Just accepted a position as a teacher and corp member in the CityWide troupe.”
“Modern. We don’t have the same body issues that ballet does. Well, not quite the same. Combination of comfort food and high metabolism. ”
John jumped up. “Sorry. I have to go. Class starts at 6. Need to be there early to check the kitchen and start the prep. ”
“Shouldn’t the students do that? ”
“Eh, there are some things you need to do early if you are going to have successful meals in 2 hours. Wash the lettuce so it can dry.”
John left. I watched him go. Nice view.
So, one of my neighbors was handsome, talented, and tormented. That could be promising, or a Gothic novel waiting to happen. What did I really know about his life? He said he was a good cook, but he might be terrible. He might not be working in restaurants because he been fired from them all and his name was on some sort of back room black list, if such a thing existed. Maybe he was resting between roles the way diva actors claimed to be doing when they couldn’t get auditions.
But he sure was cute. Nice hands, wide palms with capable fingers. I could see those hands wielding a knife, or grabbing a pot handle, or whipping a sauce into a froth with long rhymthic strokes of his … whisk. Well, that’s enough of that. I barely know the man.
Since it was my first day at work, I got the obligatory new kid tour.
I saw the standard dance school features: studios, mirrors, barres. It looked like every dance space I had ever seen been in. The locker rooms were small but tidy. The showers clean. Women’s, Men’s and a third room that was marked with a ‘Modesty’ sign and the non-binary sign that had both the women’s plus and the masculine arrow. They were covering all the bases.
The performance space was small but well-planned. The aisles lead up to the stage in graceful arcs. Dancers, or Movers as CityWide like to call us, could leave the stage to dance, or move, among the audience.
I saw a few things I was not expecting. One office had been turned into a video-editing suite. The director explained that professionals and students learned dance photography and videography, as skills in their own right. Not enough to turn them into professionals but enough of a grounding that they found out if they have an interest in it.
They also learned photography and videography so they would understand how their physical movements were represented on different media. Their online life was as much a part of their career as their live performance. Success in dance has never been just about moving well on stage. There have always been patrons who need to be catered to. These days there were thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of patrons voting with every keystroke, instead of a handful of rich men voting with their piles of cash.
In addition, the director explained, it wasn’t all PR clickbait. CityWide tried to make their performances viewable on many platforms. Being in a live performance is wonderful, but not everyone has that option. Why not make the experience available to everyone?
The director pointed to a corner that was covered on two side with stylized CW logos. It looked like the corners that soccer coached where interviewed in. Which is exactly what it was.
They interviewed dancers and reviewed the tapes. They learn how to carry themselves on camera and how to speak. Being dancers, the first part came easily. They were aware of how to control their bodies. They also practiced speak well and not getting flustered. Some had to be encouraged to speak up, others had to learn that an interview is not a therapy session.
The director stopped pointing out various features. “Sorry, I’m going on a bit. This is one of my pet projects. I want all our dancers and graduates to be prepared for all aspects of their career, not just what happens in class or on stage.”
I was impressed. “You seem to have thought through a lot of this.” Maybe because John was still on my mind, I aadded. “What about food?
We walked past vending machines that had fruit drinks and healthfood snacks.
“That’s still a work in progress.” The director said. “We can offer but we can’t force anyone to eat well or make healthy choices.”
I had a guilty moment about my pizza.
The director continued, “Our break room has a full kitchen, as you saw, but we rally haven’t been able to get people to use it, or to find a way to encourage people to value the effect food has on their bodies. We need someone who can teach and cook and make cooking entertaining.”
“You know,” I said, “I may have just the guy for you.”
“The catch is, you will probably have to take a few dance classes.”
John and I were back on the roof. This time I had a salad while he drank coffee.
“Dance classes?” He looked dubious.
“Yeah. You will be teaching us how to cook and eat. It’s only fair that you experience what we do.” I paused and tried to dial it back. This was sucha perfect fit, if only he could see it. “So what do you think? ”
“Run this by me again? I would be a personal chef for a dance company?”
“Yes, the idea is to provide is to have healthy meals available for small fees. Lure them in with convenience and low prices.”
“Not pizza?” He asked?
“Can you do a gluten-free, broccoli pizza?”
John looked thoughtful.
“Hah. I know that look. You are interested. ”
“Well, it is a challenge. Busy people who want quick food.”
I jumped in, “And you have to make it taste good. Otherwise, they won’t eat it. Healthy food is easy. Cheap food is easy. Healthy, cheap and tasty? You’d have to be a darn good chef to pull that off.”
I couldn’t help myself, I piled on. “Think of the variety. New meals every day. And education. They want to offer classes to adults and kids. Show them how to eat well. Have them make a meal. Show them it’s not scary. They eat together. The school is big on bonding.”
“Plus,” I added, “The director said you can have as many hot dog cannons as you want.”